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Why is Sitting so Bad on Your Low Back?

Author: Dr. Tyler J Tonso, DC

Problems with Relaxing

It’s common in the workplace today for people to be sitting for hours on end. Then, we go home and sit while watching tv, after driving home while sitting in a confined space. People often notice after several hours that they begin to get achy low back pain that just doesn’t seem to go away, until they stop sitting. So what is it that causes all that pain while sitting? Here’s some explanation…

Posture

Sitting can cause low back pain

Sitting can cause low back pain

If you look at the normal posture of the spine there are natural curves that help to act as a shock absorbers. However, when we sit we change and sometimes even reverse these natural curves. In the low back it is natural to have an extended posture(lordotic curve) but when we sit down with poor posture this curve is often either straightened or reversed in to a kyphotic curve. Our body has the ability to adapt to unnatural positions, but if we are in these abnormal positions for too long our tissues start to break down and we’ll soon experience pain.

Tissue Changes

As the tissues hang out in this unnatural position they begin to go through changes. The muscles lose their elasticity and nerves become irritated by abnormal positioning, tissue tension, and eventually inflammation.

As these tissues go through these changes it takes them time to heal back to normal. The problem is we need to be out of these bad positions in order for the areas to heal. So when we continue to sit every day for hours on end, we never give these tissues a chance to heal. I often encounter people with low back pain that have to travel in a car for work every day for several hours. These people can sometimes be the hardest to get better because they continue to put their backs in positions that make it so they can’t heal. This is often why people tend to say they feel better after the weekends when they have been able to be more active and not sit all day at work. Then the pain continues to gradually get worse as the work week goes on.

What Can YOU Do?

Passive Prone Extension

Passive Prone Extension

So what can you do about it? For one, stop sitting so much. Some people have the options to have standing work desks which should be used as often as possible. For people without that option, remember to take breaks whether it is to go to the printer, get water, etc. Just try to refrain from sitting for hours on end. Putting your body in positions to help reverse position of sitting all day also helps.

Exercises that emphasize extending the low back are important. While at work, take simple 30 second breaks where you stand repeatedly extend the low back. Sometimes putting your fists on your low back helps to push forward the low back and extend. Passive prone extension is an exercise that focuses on extending the low back while lying on your stomach but without using the low back muscles. This puts the low back in a very beneficial position without stressing already tense muscles.

What Can WE Do?

Other treatments that can help with this problem are chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy, and modalities such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and kinesiotape for when the area is flared up. Chiropractic adjustments focus on extending the low back for this problem since the joints and muscles are often tight and don’t want to fully move in to this position. This can help normalize the posture and relieve pressure off nerves. Massage therapy also helps relieve the muscle spasms that are also associated with this problem.

For further information on your low back pain with sitting, please contact our office and we would be more than happy to help.

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